Edinburgh Fringe 2011
This pacy sketch show has great moments and strong performances, but is held back by some formulaic scenarios and characters.
The Beta Males are John Henry Falle, Jon Gracey, Guy Kelly and Richard Soames, an energetic, four-man sketch comedy group whose latest Edinburgh show The Train Job takes place at a furious speed: set on a train hurtling from London to Edinburgh at record-breaking speed.
The four young gents look exceptionally smart, their attire matched from the belt to the shoes, with a waistcoat and tie ensemble that gives them an air of old-fashioned charm. The dialogue is pacy, the performers’ voices are strong. Their movements precise and very well rehearsed – a scene taking place on top of the train, show-down style is great at evoking the scenario, while a scene in the 1st Class carriage featuring some fusty old businessmen is injected with energy by kind of grown-up version of musical chairs.
Some of the sketches were, I found, rather predictable – a farewell scene between a couple having a secret affair, for instance, was a send-up of moments we’ve all seen before, yet it didn’t offer much in the way of subverting the trope. I’d love to see something more daring, a bit silly from these energetic performers, who are clearly very talented. And while perhaps it is an intentional choice, I would like to see some more punchlines or pay-offs in more of the sketches to give them a really satisfying ending. Additionally – the boys would do well to bear in mind how international a festival Edinburgh is – the main plot which has the recurring character of Stephen Byers, a former British MP – rather washed over me, not being English. My favourite sketch was about a group of hobos whose stories were all ripped off popular films, but I would have liked to see the idea develop a bit more as the sketch ended rather abruptly.
I very much enjoyed the closure of the show, a song which called back or completed earlier sketches as the train pulled towards its destination. The Beta Males have a strong show which veers towards the safe side, which could have been truly alpha comedy one with a few bolder choices.